THE MAGIC WORLD OR ORSON WELLES by James Naremore

THE MAGIC WORLD OR ORSON WELLES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

With the added fillip of commentary on Welles' most recent (F for Fake) and upcoming (The Other Side of the Wind) films, Naremore's is a scholarly and provocative tribute to America's ""enfant terrible,"" to add to those by Andre Bazin, Peter Cowie, Joseph McBride, et al. In a dense, at times unnecessarily tortuous style, the protean and prodigal artist is traced from his first paintings and play through the notorious War of the Worlds affair, and into the Hollywood and European filmmaking that have consumed the better part of an ""unruly,"" ""significant,"" and, happily, as yet unfinished life. Welles has always disliked his body, was never (popular myth to the contrary) drastically overbudget, and while intellectually a liberal, is emotionally ""something of a radical."" At the crux, claims Naremore, he is something of a paradox as well: ""flamboyant"" in style, his films bespeak ""the dangers of radical individualism."" While paying homage to Wellesian critics before him, Naremore begs to differ on significant issues (Bazin's long treatise on Welles' ""realism"" is nicely challenged), and he allots more space than others to the sexual and Gothic ingredients in the Welles oeuvre and to his ""lively"" political life. Naremore's views are often original and sometimes controversial: A Touch of Evil (and not The Magnificent Ambersons) is defended as Welles' ""most impressive"" film next to Citizen Kane, and the ""something"" missing in his European films is identified as America. Replete with references to other movies, filmmakers, and critics, this is not for the timid buff, but it ought to delight insatiable Welles enthusiasts and, of course, the serious scholar.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1978
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press